Legends of Tomorrow interview showrunner

EXCLUSIVE: Legends Of Tomorrow Showrunner Reflects On Season 7 Cliffhanger Ending Before Sudden Cancellation

On a recent episode of ‘The Showrunner Whisperer’, Keto Shimizu talks through building a Legends of Tomorrow season 7 that wasn’t meant to be the end.

[Legends of Tomorrow ended in 2022, this interview was recorded a year later.]

TSW: It’s been over a year now since we lost the show and I think a lot of us, who have been following this franchise for as long as we did, never expected it to go out the way it did because of network restructure with Nexstar.

Can you take me back to that day of learning that the show wasn’t coming back? How much power do you guys have as showrunners of trying to save the show, ‘Is there any chance of moving it to another platform?’ or ‘Can we trim the budget for next season so we can at least come back for a couple of episodes?’ What did that look like?

Shimizu: We’re really powerless; once a network makes a decision not to bring a show back, there’s really nothing we can do about it. There’s no amount of begging or trying to negotiate, the decision has been made at that point. The only chance that we might have had was in the early days of the final season. But at that point, we were just trying to get episodes written, produced, and it sort of came too late. These discussions of ‘What if we have to end?’ or ‘What can we do to try to get people excited for next year?’ We were like ‘We are halfway through our season and now you want to talk about this?’ 

We kind of knew what they wanted us to do in terms of getting a new character on board and having an exciting potential new season. Again, I think there were just too many things out of everyone’s control, even the head of the network loved our show! He was one of the biggest fans and ultimately, he couldn’t save the show, so what could you do? It was out of so many people’s hands at that point and financially just not viable for the structure of the new management of the network. It just made no sense to have this type of show on their platform anymore based on what they thought their target audience would respond to, so it was really sad.

I was already not planning on coming back, so I had already sort of said my goodbye to the show, but I had hoped to leave the show in such a way that it was undeniable to get another season or at least a final season to wrap everything up. That’s one of the reasons why we leaned into that cliffhanger as much as we did and it was sort of a little too late after the script had been written and was already in pre-production when someone was finally like ‘What if we want to actually end this?’ I’m like ‘Are you kidding me?! The train has already left the station, guys, and now you want to hedge your bets? We gotta just go full steam ahead’ and I feel badly for fans who feel disappointed by the ending.

I still love it in a way because it is such a Legends’ way to end things. If this is the end, it’s kind of a ballsy ending for a show that never did anything or tried not to do anything cliché or expected. It kind of works, I think, so I feel bad if there are fans who are completely unsatisfied with that ending. I do hope that some of them, at least, can understand the sort-of-joke and fun of it and knowing that ‘Yeah, in our hearts, the Legends went to jail and had adventures busting out.’ It was tons of fun, but I think that if we had more of a traditional closing or an ending, it might not also feel very satisfying to true Legends fans.

TSW: How much did you guys know about the shake-ups coming up? What support did  The CW at the time provide for you guys, in terms of, ‘Hey, this could be it’ Or would they encourage you to not do a cliffhanger because one, it’s a very Legends-style but two, they could see this coming back for another season?

Shimizu: We knew of all the shake-ups happening, the potential sale and all of those things were coming as we were, again, very deep into writing and producing our season. It didn’t really seem like a possibility that we wouldn’t get a chance to wrap things up in a satisfying way, with at least half a season. Again, this was based on the decade-plus of precedent really set by The CW and them always giving shows a chance to end things their own way, even shows that didn’t have much of an audience. They’re always like ‘And there’s going to be eight episodes to wrap this up,’ so to us, and again, this was probably our hubris in a way – we just didn’t think that it was possible that we would get cut off at the knees without a chance to really make a satisfying conclusion.

We just didn’t think that would happen even with these changes and we didn’t realize until it was kind of too late that the discussions about, ‘This is your last season,’ should have been had with us when we started season 7 as opposed to when we were breaking the last few episodes or having written the final episode and then it’s like, ‘Wait what, now you want us to tie things up? No, we can’t.’ If we had known, and again, I don’t blame the network for this because I don’t think they really knew just how much the identity of the network was going to change potentially, that season 7 was going to be our last. 

If we had known going in, we could have pivoted fairly gracefully into an ending that was still fun and irreverent but that would have felt more like an ending. It just happened too late that we were too busy pushing the season forward as we should have been, that’s our job, to really come to grips with the fact that all these shifts that were happening in offices far, far away from us and far, far away from the people who we talk to every day about story and about the direction of the show. These were numbers people, these were finance people, these are not people who ever watched our show or ever really cared. It was just people who looked at the math and said ‘No this doesn’t make sense, we don’t want to do these kinds of shows anymore, so goodbye.’

Legends of Tomorrow wasn’t the only DC-CW show that got chopped unexpectedly and without a chance to wrap up on its own terms, Batwoman and Black Lightning (two other shows with predominantly nonwhite casts) suffered from this too. 

Even without a season 8 to expand on Booster Gold’s story and put a bow on the show’s epic run, Shimizu and her team managed to give fans one of the most memorable series finales of the Arrowverse. 

All episodes of Legends of Tomorrow are currently streaming on Netflix.